JOSH HAMNER MAKES NAME FOR HIMSELF AT BIRMINGHAM 17-Year-Old Wins Pole, Sets Track Record and Finishes Third in SAS Opener CHELSEA, AL (April 5, 2005) -- Before the weekend, there may still have been a few Birmingham area short track fans not ...
JOSH HAMNER MAKES NAME FOR HIMSELF AT BIRMINGHAM
17-Year-Old Wins Pole, Sets Track Record and Finishes Third in SAS Opener
CHELSEA, AL (April 5, 2005) -- Before the weekend, there may still have been a few Birmingham area short track fans not already convinced that 17-year-old hometown driver Josh Hamner is a rising star in racing. But after his performance in the Show Me the Money 200 at Birmingham International Raceway (AL) on Sunday those folks probably turned into believers.
The $10,000-to-win event, which also served as the Southern All Star Series season opener, was only Hamner's third start in a powerful 4-barrel Super Late Model car. Yet he won the pole position for the race, set a new track record, led the talent-rich field around the historic track and finished third behind former national champions Charlie Bradberry and Gary Helton.
Still, Hamner wasn't completely satisfied.
"I'm a little bit disappointed," said Hamner. "I thought that I had second there behind Charlie. My car was just awesome at the end of the race."
The car was also awesome the night before when time trials were held under the lights. Bradberry flirted with the track record early in qualifying and Florida's Eddie Mercer shattered the five-year-old mark a little bit later. That was all before Hamner hit the track. To the delight of the local fans, Hamner took the pole away from Mercer and turned the spotlight onto himself.
"That lap felt really good," said Hamner. "I couldn't tell you how I did it; I just went out there and did it. I tried to be as smooth as possible. The car was good. I kind of surprised myself actually to beat Charlie and Eddie; there were a lot of good cars here."
Before the race, the top-five cars were inverted and Hamner ended up in the third row. At the drop of the green, his car looked anything but racy. Hamner dropped as far back as eighth, but it was all part of his strategy. Still, it wasn't easy for the young charger to pace himself.
"I let everybody go," said Hamner. "I went at a safe pace and they got ahead of me a little bit. It was really hard to do that. I wanted to go hammer down out of the corner every lap."
The benefit of pacing himself was that Hamner was only one of three drivers to hold off until lap 138 to take four new tires. With 62 laps to go and new rubber, it was almost certain that the victory would be decided between him, Bradberry and Augie Grill.
Hamner had a few close calls before making it to the finish though. The first came when he was running towards the front of a restart.
"I got to the front one time and I don't know what I was thinking," said Hamner. "I didn't pump my brakes after a restart, slid up the track and just got freight trained. That killed me."
The next one came when Hamner and Grill got together in turn two with four laps to go. Grill was knocked out of the race, while Hamner went spinning and was sent to the rear of the lead lap cars with only a handful of laps left.
"I ran in there and it got loose," said Hamner. "I got into Augie and he got into the wall. I hate that for him. I almost had it saved and then I hit Helton and I was like 'Oh No!' I stood on the gas because I didn't want to end up in the outside wall. It just bent the bumper on the car."
With only a few laps left, Hamner ran out of time when it came to making a bid for the lead. Bradberry had that covered, but Hamner was able to get back up to third and accomplish his biggest goal of the day.
"The car is still in one piece, so I'll go down to Montgomery next weekend and try to get them down there," said Hamner.
In his latest race at Montgomery Speedway (AL), Hamner was running in the top five for much of the night and making a late-race charge to the front when his clutch gave out and ended his night early.
"I have many things to prove going back there," said Hamner. "The goal is to win, leave with the car in one piece and go to the Blizzard race in Pensacola [at Five Flags Speedway] after that."